The Bureau International des Poids et Mesures (BIPM) has made a decision, declaring that the world can do without leap seconds.
Leap seconds were occasionally added to official time records to reflect changes in the Earth’s angular rotation and a method of measuring time called UT1.
While UT1 is valid and correct, the world also measures time using Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) – a time scale created by the BIPM.
Adding leap seconds to get rid of UT1 confusion with UTC and that makes time keepers unhappy.
Leap seconds are also painful to propagate in the digital realm. The Linux kernel’s inability to handle extra leap seconds caused many crashes in 2012. A leap second in 2015 also caused problems, and in 2016 Cloudflare stumbled when faced with the need to add a second.
Eliminating leap seconds has therefore been a topic of debate since at least 2013, as they are more trouble than worth and pose risks to vital communications and computer systems.
Even Meta agrees with that argument, adding his voice to calls for her demise earlier this year.
Last week, the 27th General Conference decided the measure and weight of BIPM [PDF] Leap second day is over.
Reasons for the decision include that the Earth’s rotation has changed and we may need to insert a negative leap second – a reversal of time that has never been attempted. The BIPM also reiterated the arguments that since there is no standard way to deal with the introduction of leap seconds, they create risks for telecommunications systems and the global positioning system.
The panel therefore called for an end to leap seconds and to start work on a proposal for a “new maximum value for the difference (UT1-UTC) that will ensure the continuity of UTC for at least a century”.
The deadline for formulating this maximum has been set for 2035, and the 28th General Conference on Weights and Measures in 2026 will vote on a resolution to achieve it.
All of this will hopefully satisfy Time Lords and techies alike.
It would have to be many, many years before this decision becomes problematic, although there have been moments in history when the calendars have been out of sync with the seasons. One of Julius Caesar’s major reforms was to change the Roman calendar so that occasional insertions of extra months were no longer required to allow for accurate timekeeping. ®
https://www.theregister.com/2022/11/22/leap_seconds_discontinued/ Time Lords have an end to leap seconds • The Register